Tag Archives: convict

Efforts to unseat elected govt through courts is ‘Contempt for Voters’ – Guardian Editorial

Pakistan politics: contempt for voters

Legality of supreme court’s move to unseat democratically elected government before its term is highly debatable

The national reconciliation ordinance was a dirty deal, brokered by the Bush administration, between Pakistan’s then military ruler Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto. It allowed her to return from exile and take part in elections in exchange for the dropping of corruption charges against her husband Asif Ali Zardari and other officials. The constitutional court was right to declare it unconstitutional two years later in 2009 and, it could be argued, equally right to demand the current government’s full implementation of the court’s decision.

The court is trying to do this by requiring the serving prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, to write to the Swiss authorities asking them to reopen a corruption inquiry against Mr Zardari. This the prime minister refuses to do on the grounds that Mr Zardari, who is now president, enjoys executive immunity from prosecution both inside and outside the country. The immunity the president enjoys while in office has not been the issue in the court, only Mr Gilani’s failure to comply with an unimplementable order. Yesterday he was charged with contempt, a move which could lead to his dismissal from office. If the legality of the court’s move is debatable, the politics of it are extremely murky.

First the timing. Having sat on this issue for three years, the supreme court are only now moving against Mr Gilani, who has become Pakistan’s longest serving prime minister. He was also the only one to be have been voted unanimously in power by parliament. Why now? With elections coming up in March 2013 which the leading party in the coalition, the Pakistan People’s Party, could very well win, this is an attempt to stop the civilian government from consolidating its power. In past eras this would have been done by tanks and generals. Today, it is been done by using supreme court justices as proxies. That may be called progress, but the manoeuvre to unseat a democratically elected government before its term is up remains the same.

Further, no domestic proceedings are being brought against President Zardari. They want a foreign government to do their work for them. Nor is any politician in Pakistan in a rush to challenge the rule of the executive immunity from prosecution for the simple reason that in power they would be sure to benefit from it as well. Once Mr Zardari loses office, fairly and at an election, he will lose that immunity and it is entirely right that he should have to account for allegations that he received kickbacks in a court of law. But that is not the purpose of yesterday’s contempt hearing. It is to sow political chaos and Mr Gilani is right to resist it. If he is convicted and forced from office, he will become a martyr in his party’s eyes. This will only propel his career forward.

Courtesy: Guardian.co.uk

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/13/pakistan-politics-contempt-voters?newsfeed=true

via » WICHAAR.COM

‘Restraint’ must follow ‘activism’

By Khaled Ahmed

Expansion of judicial power is welcome, but one must not forget that there is also such a thing as judicial excess

On 30 February 2012, the Supreme Court (SC) has allowed former Pakistani ambassador to US Husain Haqqani to travel abroad after an important witness in the ‘memo’ case finally refused to present himself at the judicial commission set up by the Court. This is the first sign of gradual erosion of the charges that were finally to target President Zardari as the originator of ‘treason’ against the Pakistan Army through an American businessman, Mansoor Ijaz.

Analysts believe the Court has been let down by the other parties interested in crucifying the PPP leader and sending the PPP government packing before its term. Nawaz Sharif may have stitched up a deal with Zardari over the timing of next general election; and the Army may have been appeased through Zardari’s sacrifice of Husain Haqqani as burnt offering to the generals. At the time of writing, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan was defending Prime Minister Gilani against a charge of contempt and persuading the honourable Court to relent and be satisfied with a belated letter to the Swiss authorities.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan is hearing two cases – and a third one is coming up later in the month – that threaten to expose it to lack of judicial restraint. At home, internecine politics and the besiegement of the ruling party give it the ballast with which it can keep going if it wants. But the lawyers’ movement – which deluded it into feeling that it was backed by ‘the nation’ rather than the Constitutionis split at the top, the vanguard of its leaders now skeptical of its steamrollering activism. Internationally too it is now facing isolation.

On January 25, 2012, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) expressed its concern over the convening of the inquiry commission for the memo affair, saying ‘there are legitimate concerns‘ that, by neglecting the rights of the ex-ambassador Husain Haqqani, the Court ‘may have overstepped its constitutional authority and that this action could undermine the ongoing Parliamentary inquiry. The ICJ supported the ousted Supreme Court and consistently accepted its activism in a national environment of extreme dereliction and corruption in state institutions topped by the incumbent executive.

Sitting inside Pakistan and bristling over country’s eroding sovereignty, it is easy to be isolationist and ignore the ICJ warning. Those among the top lawyers – Asma Jahangir, Munir A Malik, Ali Ahmad Kurd, Aitzaz Ahsan – who have decided to caution judicial restraint after a bout of activism so intense it looked like revenge, are being cursed by the mainly conservative and bucolic (mufassil) lawyers’ community as well as the media clearly bent on getting rid of a largely dysfunctional PPP government.

The ‘national consensus’ is chiding the Supreme Court to review just anything under the sun as the forum of last resort. There is no forum higher than the Supreme Court if you feel aggrieved. Except that the Court takes an objective view of its authority and a realistic view of the fallibilities of a third world state cut to pieces by terrorism. It is more difficult to convict a known terrorist in Pakistan than the sitting prime minister.

Continue reading ‘Restraint’ must follow ‘activism’